April is National Poetry month and I thought I'd kick it off with a few thoughts on the power that can be found in reading and enjoying carefully composed verse.
I'm most often a straight forward message/story type poetry reader. If things get too cerebral or hazy I get lost in them and my attention wanes. I often feel as if I'm not smart enough to understand much of poetry
and I tend to enjoy a good rhyme or meter more than free verse (strangely enough, however, when I write it's usually free verse that oozes from my pen.) I think that hearkens back to the days when I used to memorize things on a semi-regular basis. It's much easier to memorize something that has a rhythm to it.
But every once in a while I like to read something that I don't understand at all and just glory in the sound (if not the meaning) of the words, letting them paint abstract images in my mind much as one might imagine while listening to certain pieces of classical music. There are no concrete 'answers' to what you are supposed to be hearing or seeing (though undoubtably the authors would argue) just impressions of mood and shape.
And much like those musical pieces touch our hearts and leave us a bit smarter and wiser and more in tune with the world around us, so the words of the poets can impress themselves in the crevices and folds of our brain in ways that we might not understand or appreciate, but they are there nonetheless.
In his book Zen in the Art of Writing Ray Bradbury (one of my favorite authors) put it this way:
Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don't use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand. And above all, poetery is compacted metaphor or simile. Such metaphors, like Japanese paper flowers, may expand outward into gigantic shapes...What poetry? Any poetry that makes your hair stand up along your arms. Don't force yourself too hard. Take it easy. Over the years you may catch up to, move even with, and pass TS Eliot on your way to other pastures. You say you don't understand Dylan Thomas? Yes, but your ganglion does, and your secret wits, and all your unborn children. Read him, as you can read a horse with your eyes, set free and charging over an endless green meadow on a windy day.
So, go find a poem. Read it and revel in it and let it sink in to your soul. Even if you don't know what it is talking about! (And then share with me some of your favorite poets or poems in the comments. I'd love a running dialogue on what words and thoughts move you and just might move me too!)